A year or so ago I was slogging my way through my first foray into a YA (Young Adult) novel, and it wasn’t going so well.
I had a terrific story, and my protagonist was well fleshed out, but I was stymied by one thing:
I asked my daughter for feedback. She was a little younger than the target audience, but my daughter is hella smart for her age and witty as hell with a good head on her shoulders, so I asked her to describe her dream guy for me. My protagonist needed a love interest, and I was having a hard time getting a handle on this guy. Since I was writing for the YA market, she was perfect for the picking.
Except for one thing: she and I have dramatically different taste in men. She started describing the guy’s physical characteristics, then some personality traits (all based on whichever YouTube celeb it was that she was crushing on at the time) and before I knew it, I had the guy’s character down. I started writing the interactions between the two love leads and *yawn* oh, was it ever going nowhere. Just….boring. No spark between these two at all.
And that’s not good, especially in YA when these people are not going to be getting naked (and for those of you wanting to know – I write YA under an entirely different pen name for that very reason). YA is all about the buildup, the yearning, the almost-but-not-quite. So chemistry and tension are critical when you’ve got a love story in the adventure.
I finally realized it wasn’t working because I didn’t know this guy. He wasn’t who I dreamed about, not even remotely. In short, he didn’t light my fire. So I took him back to scratch and built the teen guy of my teen dreams and blammo – he clicked. I did use my daughter’s valuable feedback on a few points here and there, but I had to write what I know, and what I knew was that this guy wasn’t my guy.
Lesson learned. Get the feedback, use some of the feedback, but don’t try to write someone else’s story.